Background: Previous research on the relationship between physician behavior and patient satisfaction has not always used standardized terminology and instruments to measure physician behavior. The Davis Observation Code (DOC) provides a reliable and valid means of analyzing clinically relevant units of physician behavior. The units of behavior can then be related to patient satisfaction.
Methods: One hundred new patients randomly assigned to receive care from primary care residents at a university medical center outpatient facility were evaluated. Before seeing their physicians, patients completed a previsit questionnaire to determine their general level of satisfaction with health care. During the visit, the encounter was videotaped and physician behavior characterized using DOC. After the appointment, patients completed a visit-specific satisfaction questionnaire. Multiple regression analysis was used to model the visit-specific satisfaction variables in terms of DOC measurements.
Results: Total visit-specific satisfaction was positively related to previsit satisfaction (P < or = .05) and to time spent on health education (P < or = .001), physical examination (P < or = .05), and discussion of treatment effects (P < or = .01). There was a negative relationship with time spent on history taking (P < or = .01). Slightly more than 25% of the variability in satisfaction was explained by these five variables (R2 = .26). The general, humaneness, and quality/competence subscales of visit-specific satisfaction were also positively related to health education, physical examination, and treatment effects and negatively related to history taking.
Conclusions: Patients are most satisfied with medical visits in which they talk about their specific therapeutic interventions, are examined, and receive health education. Extended general discussion of medical history is negatively related to satisfaction.